Bereavement is a universal observable fact as every human being experiences the loss of a loved one at some point in his/her life. However, every individual experiences it in a unique way. It is, without a doubt, an undeniable truth that to be human is to grieve. The passing away of a loved one can be difficult, irresistible and dreadful for any normal individual. When people are faced with such overwhelming situations, a majority of them especially the older adults get into the habit of enduring their loss with time. On the other hand, to forget and live without a loved one is not as easy for some individuals. It becomes difficult for these people to cope up with the grief-stricken situations as they experience a grief of greater concentration or time (Hansson & Stroebe, 2007). There are a number of theorists who have put forwarded their views regarding grief, mourning and bereavement since the study of psychology has started. The most significant theorist among them is Freud who was the first to present a modern view of grief in his theories.
In this paper, I would present both modernist and postmodernist views regarding grief and bereavement. My main purpose would be to present a contrast between the modern and postmodern theories of bereavement. Above all, I intend to dispute with one of the aspects of Freud's modern grief theory. I would oppose the modernist belief that in order to live a healthy life, an individual must completely end his/her relationship with the loved ones who have departed to another world. I would present an argument opposing their belief that an individual cannot live a healthy, satisfied and comfortable life if he/she continues to grieve over the lost ones and be in divine connection with them. In contrast to the Freudian belief, I would support the post modern view of grief hypothesized by John Bowlby & Mary Ainsworth. I would show my agreement with these prominent theorists and their follower theorists others who follow them. I would support their belief that it is really important for an individual to continue to have a relationship with the loved ones who have died as it assures a good life. According to the post-modernists, it is perfectly normal and truly understandable if an individual remains remember and be in connection with the demised. It is exceedingly important because in many situations, great harm can be done to an individual who is compelled to let go or forget about his/her lost loved ones.
I would also include the "Relationship Questionnaire (RQ)" structured by Horowitz and Bartholomew in the end of this paper to present another aspect of the postmodern theory of bereavement. These two theorists have extended the postmodern theory, especially one postulated by Bowlby and Ainsworth, in their work.
What is Bereavement?
Bereavement, in fact, is the term used to describe the condition when we lose someone or something. Bereavement is sometimes defined as a stretch of time, process or particular acts linked with the loss or losses. According to Tom Attig, a well-known philosopher, "When those we love die, we embark on a difficult journey of the heart. We begin by suffering bereavement. We 'suffer' in the sense that we have been deprived of someone we love" (as qtd. In Hedtke, 2010).
Modernist Theory of Bereavement
According to the grief work hypothesis of the modernist bereavement theory, grief is required to be fully worked through. It advocates the idea that all of the stages and tasks of grief must be completed and all of its negative feelings must be dealt with. It goes on to emphasize that grief is an intra-psychic process and the individual going through the sorrowful feelings is the only one who journeys alone along the path. This hypothesis also concludes that grief is time controlled and has a clear beginning and a clear end. Finally, this hypothesis makes it essential for the individual to end the grief process by destroying all the bonds with the dead. In simple words, the modernist bereavement theory suggests that recovery is attained only when mourning is done according to prescription.
The modernist paradigm of bereavement theory has strong epistemological roots that grow out of logical positivism. This epistemology puts its main focus on scientific reasonableness, goal-directness, and effectiveness; putting aside the emotional connectivity. Philosophically, logical positivism rests on empiricism, which, as According to Silverman and Klass (1996) empiricism supports logical positivism in a philosophical way and "sees a rational order in the world, with one fact leading to another" (p. 21). Empiricism, if applied to bereavement leads to the assumption that supreme truths about the manner human beings grieve can be distinguished through scientific investigation (Rosenblatt, 1996).
According to modernist hypothesis of grief work, bereavement is a scientific truth. Since the beginning of the 20th century, this hypothesis that has been developed from logical positivism has dominated bereavement research and clinical practice.
Freud's Severance of Bonds to the Deceased Bereavement Theory
The modern psychological research has been comprehensively influenced by the contributions of Freud in the field of psychology. As far as the bereavement and grief are concerned, Freud believes that it is healthy and important for the betterment of an individual to split any spiritual bonds with the deceased loved one. He firmly believes that it is an abnormal act to prolong and maintain any bonds with the loved ones who have left the world forever. His theory speculates that those who have died are basically a non-existent object and any connection with them is just out of question for a normal individual (Hogan & Schmidt, 2009). He thinks of mourning as a reaction to a loved one's loss or association to an inspiration. He goes on to suggest that the process of grieving should have an end point and that people should become capable of triumphing over their grief and bereavement and disconnect from the people who have passed away. As already discussed, Freud believes that it is an abnormal reaction to grieve over a long period of time on the loss of a loved one. He refers to this state of affairs as a departure from reality and unreasonable condition. He repeatedly links grieving to an abnormal state of mind in his work (Hedtke, 2010).
Just about every human being experiences the hurt of losing a loved one. Some people lose their parents whereas some endure the sorrow of parting away from their spouse, children or friends. Death is a universal truth and nobody has the power to change or run away from this reality. The best approach in such a distressing situation is to accept this reality because life goes on even when a loved one is lost. It is absolutely normal that losing a loved one results in an instantaneous upsetting reaction that is followed by a feeling of melancholy and grief. Every now and then, one observes bereaved individuals who lose interest in the outside world and activities often resorting to detachment and social abandonment. Furthermore, people appear to experience a diminished sense of worth as it is directly associated with their attachment with the person who is deceased. The bereaved become unable to love others because it is not easy for them to replace the lost person with a new one and develop close relationships with other people. However, it takes time to accept the authenticity of death and get used to the nonexistence of the loved one. Quite the opposite, some people continue to experience this stage of sorrow with other extreme symptoms. Such a condition is better theorized by Sigmund Freud (Freud, 1917).
Mourning and Melancholia by Freud was one of the first works in which he dealt with grief and made a distinction between grief and depression. He coined the term "grief work" as he believed that "mourning was essentially a task in which the libido's energy is taken away from the lost loved one and redirected to another area or person in life" (Doughty & Hoskins, 2011). He held on to the assumption that people are required to break any connection with the deceased for achieving a healthy resolution to their grief. The modernist view of bereavement introduced by Freud suggested that grief had a distinctive concluding point that allows the bereaved to forget the past and move forward with life without reminiscence (Rosenblatt, 1996). In addition, he was of the belief that the bereaved must concentrate on each remembrance and expectation associated to the departed so that the loss can be resolved. For all intents and purposes, "grief work" was perceived as an emotional catharsis in which the grieving individual must emotionally let go of his/her grief. He concluded that the failure of such efforts leads to the development of melancholia or depression (Weiss, 2001). Regardless of his contributions to theorize grief, many 20th century researchers refuse the Freudian assumption that emotional catharsis for dealing with grief is not essentially a helpful tactic for everyone…
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